It’s not easy to stand out visually in an industry where almost all vehicles look alike, but Alert Ambulance Service’s fleet of Sprinters is still turning heads eight years after the company first began using them. “The reason I chose this vehicle originally was for its outstanding fuel efficiency,” says CEO Rob Davis. “But we were one of the first ambulance companies to use the Sprinter, and its European styling really stood out—and still does today.”

Good looks aside, Davis has more prosaic reasons to relish the choice he first made in 2004. The two big ones are cost savings and reliability. Alert has 55 ambulances in its fleet of about 90 vehicles, and 34 of the ambulances are Freightliner Sprinters, most of them Model 2500 High Roof Cargo Vans with 144-inch wheelbase. With their efficient BlueTEC diesel engines, Alert’s Sprinter ambulances get between 16 and 18 mpg; the other diesels in its fleet get about 10 mpg, Davis reports. “We buy 18,000 gallons of fuel per month, and we calculate each Sprinter saves us more than $30,000 in fuel costs over 200,000 miles,” he says.

“Sprinter’s handling is outstanding, even in inclement weather. It handles much better than a traditional ambulance vehicle.”

A better platform for building an ambulance

The Sprinter is also saving Alert Ambulance Service significant money on the operations and maintenance side—Davis estimates 10 cents or more per mile compared to its other diesel vehicles. “We drive 2.4 million miles a year, so that adds up quickly,” he says. The Sprinters are more reliable than Alert’s other ambulances, so they are on the road producing revenue more consistently, and they are better platforms on which to build an ambulance. “With a normal van, the ambulance fabricator has to cut the roof off, install a roll cage, and add a fiberglass roof,” he explains. That’s not necessary with the Sprinter’s design, and its greater height and interior space make it easier to design and fit the custom cabinets, wiring, and climate control that go into an ambulance.”

The biggest challenges Alert Ambulance Service faces are reimbursement levels that are shrinking industry-wide and costs that continue to spiral upward. “We are all trying to find ways to be more efficient and do more with less,” Davis says. “With its fuel savings, reliability, great handling, and maneuverability, Sprinter really helps in those efforts. That’s why we bought six new ones in 2012 and plan to buy more in 2013.”